Happy Third Birthday Lily!

Non-Lily-Related Updates (Jan. 22)

Uri Bram posted a cute little article about whether he was justified, as a child, to tell his parents that he wouldn’t clean up his room because doing so would only increase the universe’s entropy and thereby hasten its demise. The article quotes me, Sean Carroll, and others about that important question.

On Wednesday I gave a TCS+ online seminar about “The Largest Possible Quantum Speedups.” If you’re interested, you can watch the YouTube video here.





(I promised a while ago that I’d upload some examples of Lily’s MOMA-worthy modern artworks.  So, here are two!)

A few quotable quotes:

Daddy, when you were little, you were a girl like me!

I’m feeling a bit juicy [thirsty for juice].

Saba and Safta live in Israel. They’re mommy’s friends! [Actually they’re mommy’s parents.]

Me: You’re getting bigger every day!
Lily: But I’m also getting smaller every day!

Me: Then Goldilocks tasted the third bowl, which was Baby Bear’s, and it was just right!  So she ate it all up.  Then Goldilocks went…
Lily: No, then Goldilocks ate some cherries in the kitchen before she went to the bedroom.  And blueberries.
Me: Fine, so she ate cherries and blueberries.  Then she went to the bedroom, and she saw that there were three beds…
Lily: No, four beds!
Me: Fine, four beds.  So she laid in the first bed, but she said, “this bed is too hard.”
Lily: No, it was too comfortable!
Me: Too comfortable?  Is she some kind of monk?

Me [pointing to a taxidermed black bear in a museum]: What’s that?
Lily: A bear!
Me: Is it Winnie the Pooh?
Lily: No, it’s a different kind of bear.
Me [pointing to a tan bear in the next case]: So what about that one? Is that Winnie?
Lily: Yes! That’s Winnie the Pooh!
[Looking at it more closely] No, it’s a different kind of Winnie.

Lily: Why is it dark outside?
Me: Because it’s night time.
Lily: Why is it night time?
Me: Because the sun went to the other side of the world.
Lily: It went to China!
Me: Yes! It did in fact go to China.
Lily: Why did the sun go to China?
Me: Well, more accurately, it only seemed to go there, because the world that we’re on is spinning.
Lily: Why is the world spinning?
Me: Because of the conservation of angular momentum.
Lily: Why is the … consibation of amomomo?
Me: I suppose because of Noether’s Theorem, and the fact that our laws of physics are symmetric under spatial rotations.
Lily: Why is…
Me: That’s enough for today Lily!

30 Responses to “Happy Third Birthday Lily!”

  1. Sniffnoy Says:

    Happy birthday Lily! 😀

    (Also something seems to have happened to the website again.)

  2. Rafael Says:

    In the last example, you should have given her one year or two. She would probably figure out the Earth’s rotation movement by herself.

  3. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #1: Sorry, I’ll restore from backup when I get home! Then I’ll call Bluehost and yell at them about it.

  4. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    > Lily: No, it was too comfortable!

    Is she generalizing from other aspects of the story? The porridge is on a continuum with a good middle ground and bad extremes.

  5. Jonathan Lee Marcus Says:

    Happy Birthday Lily!

    This is profound and profoundly adorable.

  6. Scott Says:

    Joshua: I’ll ask her when I pick her up from daycare.

  7. Douglas Knight Says:

    Clicking on links gets to an extra photo that isn’t included in this post. It’s called “art2.” Is it also Lily’s work? I can’t figure out the medium. It looks like balls of fur, but what are they attached to?

    Also, the second picture is called “sculpture,” but I’m guessing it’s not Lily’s. What about the cake decoration? Probably too late to put that in MoMA.

  8. Vadim Says:

    Happy Birthday Lily!

    Regarding her modern artwork, as an advocate of the Big Mac Aesthetic, I feel that the optical suggestions of the spatial relationships seems very disturbing in light of the distinctive formal juxtapositions. It should be added that the mechanical mark-making of the purity of line makes resonant a participation in the critical dialogue of the 90s. It’s difficult to enter into this work because of how the subaqueous qualities of the figurative-narrative line-space matrix contextualize the eloquence of these pieces.

    With special thanks to The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator, which in a pinch can double as a John Sidles phrase generator.

  9. Sean Carroll Says:

    Got out of that last dialogue just in time.

  10. Scott Says:

    Douglas: Yes, it’s hers. I didn’t think it was quite as daring as her other piece, but OK, I put it back in the post!

  11. Ira Says:

    I believe Witten just posted a paper to arxiv called, ‘The consibation of amomomo.’ It claims to straighten out certain problems in brane theory.
    But don’t worry, should it ever go to court, I’ll testify for Lily that she had the idea first.

    Wrt China, you could have told her that now that the Chinese economy is slowing down, they’re asking for the loans which they made to our part of the world to be paid back. Since our part of the world has no money left, we’re forced to give them the sun.


  12. Henning Dekant Says:

    Too cute 🙂

    Happy b-day!

  13. Chris Wood Says:

    Balance in all things:
    Scott, your last five postings (arbitrary cut-off, could have been 50) exemplify a degree of balance in life to which we should all aspire. Happy Birthday to Lily and best wishes to you and Dana.

  14. Arko Says:

    You are a very lucky dad, Scott. Lily listens to you when you tell her it’s enough for the day!

  15. Rahul Says:

    Did you ask Lily for permission to post this? 🙂

  16. Ajit R. Jadhav Says:


    [But where is the cat?]


  17. ryanw Says:

    LOL. Best post. Happy birthday, Lilly!
    A few hours ago, G.P. said he saw a swimming dinosaur in the bathtub eating cherry animals and eggs. When I asked him what color were the eggs, he exclaimed “THEY WERE WHITE, DADDY!” as if I were some lunatic.

  18. Scott Says:

    Rahul #15: I asked Dana for permission!

    I don’t think Lily understands the concept of a blog yet. For her, a desktop computer (as opposed to an iPad) has the following functions only: watching YouTube videos (such as Peppa Pig), playing music, displaying photos of her as an infant, video-chat with relatives, and “working.” Last night she offered up the following insight:

    “Mommy and Daddy are working all the time. You work every day. You work on your computers!”

  19. Scott Says:

    Honesty compels me to point out a glaring omission (on my part) in the last dialogue. Namely, Noether’s Theorem is only relevant to our universe because our universe satisfies a Euler-Lagrange equation. So, there’s a different branch that the last part of the dialogue could have taken:

    Lily: Why does the universe satisfy a Euler-Lagrange equation?

    Me: Ultimately, because of quantum mechanics—because all the paths that don’t satisfy a Euler-Lagrange equation, interfere destructively and cancel each other out.

    Lily: Why is our universe quantum-mechanical?

    Me: The best answer I know to that, is because God seems to prefer the 2-norm over the 1-norm in every situation.

    Lily: Why does God prefer the 2-norm?

    Me: Maybe because with that one you can also have an inner product?

    Lily: Why does God want an inner product?

    Me: That’s enough for today Lily!

  20. AdamT Says:

    Double plus points if she had asked, “Why is… God?”

  21. Joscha Says:

    I found that the best way to break a ‘why’ chain is to ask back for my child’s theory: “What do you think why that is?” – It was invariably followed by an outburst of creativity, and a concluding settlement.

  22. fred Says:

    That painting in the third shot looks a lot like the Complexity Zoo!

  23. Linfeng Zhang Says:

    Such a cute girl and daddy! hahaha, you really made me laugh!

  24. Scott T Says:

    I find with my kids that “why” usually just means “tell me more about this topic” rather than literally asking why.

  25. Scott Says:

    Scott #24: The way I think about it is, just like she runs randomly around a building or park whenever let loose in one, so she uses her parents to run randomly around the causal structure of reality (insofar as her parents know it).

  26. Chris Blake Says:

    Scott: I just watched the TCS+ seminar, another excellent talk by you! I’m extremely impressed by the availability of theoretical computer science materials presented to a general audience like this, it is extremely helpful and should be the norm for other academic disciplines as well.

    I have a question about the talk: you can prove the classical complexity lower bound on this “forrelation” oracle problem: an area where quantum algorithms are provably better than classical algorithms, even though admittedly the forrelation problem is somewhat contrived.

    Noting that I am definitely not an experimentalist, isn’t this “forrelation” problem something that a quantum computer could attempt to solve? You would need two “black boxes” of some kind, both of which take in quantum states as input, and one of the black boxes performs a unitary transformation that corresponds to a highly “forrelated” function, and the other one an “unforrelated one.” And then you hook this up to your quantum circuit and show that the quantum circuit as you described can figure out which one is forrelated and which one is unforrelated.

    Does this seem feasible to you? Is anyone trying to do something like this? To me this is one of those kinds of experiments like those trying to experimentally confirm Bell’s inequality: an experiment showing that really, in an unexpected and weird way, the universe works in a way that is provably not “classical.”

  27. Scott Says:

    Chris #26: Yes, absolutely, forrelation is something you could try experimentally. In fact, Seth Lloyd pointed me to a company that builds classical devices that do something similar to forrelation, for pattern recognition purposes.

    In the quantum case, you might even be able to demonstrate this optically, with a single photon in a superposition of spatial modes.

    But for demonstrating quantum supremacy, the issue is this: if the functions f and g need to be stored explicitly in physical memories, then you’ll always be limited by the size of those memories, so no hope of solving an “exponentially large problem.” If, on the other hand, f and g are described implicitly (say, by small circuits to compute them), then I don’t know how to create two forrelated Boolean functions for which you couldn’t also notice classically that they’re forrelated by just examining the circuits (maybe it’s possible).

    Those issues are part of why, for the goal of experimentally demonstrating quantum supremacy in the near future, I shifted my attention to sampling tasks, such as Fourier Sampling and BosonSampling (briefly discussed at the end of the talk), and even just sampling the output distribution of a random quantum circuit.

  28. Jon Sneyers Says:

    I love those dialogs! I’m a father of three daughters myself (aged 0.5, 2 and nearly 4), so I’m quite familiar with the curiosity and learning capabilities of kids at that age, but it never ceases to amaze me.

    Here are some questions my oldest daughter recently asked me: (I’ll translate them to English for your convenience ;))

    – What is inside a radiator?
    – What is inside a lamp?
    – What is inside this stuffed teddy bear?
    – What is fire made of?
    – What is the ceiling made of?
    – What is “knowing”?
    – What is “learning”?

    Each of these questions of course lead to a chain of even trickier follow-up questions…

  29. Anon Says:

    She is so adorable! You should post more of these.

  30. Where has the Time Gone? | Sublime Illusions Says:

    […] Lily: Why is the world spinning? Me: Because of the conservation of angular momentum. Lily: Why is the … consibation of amomomo? Me: I suppose because of Noether’s Theorem, and the fact that our laws of physics are symmetric under spatial rotations. Lily: Why is… Me: That’s enough for today Lily!  Link to post […]

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